Rallying 'Round the Pillar

Never before in Israel has there been such united, sweeping support from the "political system" for a military campaign as seen after the assassination of Hamas' field commander. Never have we witnessed such unreserved yea-saying after actions that in another two or three days, and maybe even now, will turn out to be a disaster.

Eyal Megged
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Eyal Megged

The Likud-Beiteinu-Yesh-Atid-in-Labor party is the big winner of the outstanding Pillar of Defense operation in Gaza. Never before in Israel has there been such united, sweeping support from the "political system" for a military campaign as seen after the assassination of Hamas' field commander. Never have we witnessed such unreserved yea-saying after actions that in another two or three days, and maybe even now, will turn out to be a disaster.

And the question arises, What is the actual reason why this generation of journalists, led by Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Lapid, decided to devote their lives to politics from here on in. To be more Netanyahu than Benjamin Netanyahu, and in effect to be far less? To be more old-fashioned and set in their ways than he, from the moment of their birth?

Not that this is the most crucial question that can be asked now. The questions and mistakes of two leading media personalities, who all of a sudden turned into political dishrags, is not our primary concern. Our primary concern should be the fact that no "influential personality" has raised the possibility that the restraint - which quickly turned out to be no more that presumed restraint, a kind of tactic, a deception that received high praise from all the players in the arena - could really have been the preferable way out of the situation.

I spent several blessed days abroad, and on the plane on the way back I read that Netanyahu had decided to exercise restraint this time. I will admit that I was really excited. I told myself that I wouldn't make too much of an effort to search for my old friend's motives, but would simply give him a pat on the back. When the prime minister is the embodiment of the Israeli, for better and for worse, there is reason to think that this time he played the unruly child who suddenly decided to surprise everyone, to contradict all the predictions of the experts, who in their despair had already recommended Ritalin after all the other tranquilizers didn't work.

I told myself on the plane, overcome with emotion, maybe because of the height: Look, as soon as you're out of the picture the world turns upside down. Finally an Israeli leader got some sense and decided to break the magic circle of stimulus-response, in all its childishness. To try what should have been done long ago: Restraint, or "containment," as it's usually called. For once not to react, and to see what happens. After all, it's not illogical to assume that in the absence of a reaction the atmosphere would cool down; that in the absence of a reaction the attacker would get tired. A little psychology doesn't hurt, since we've learned in this neighborhood that violence begets violence.

When the assassination was reported I naively went to buy vegetables. There was a festive atmosphere among the stalls, as is customary around here after a successful military operation. One of the vegetable sellers asked my opinion. I was not dragged into an argument as to whether the Arabs really understand only force, but only wondered in a weak voice (after all, this is a stronghold of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, and I'm known in the store as a fan of Hapoel Tel Aviv ) what good would come of the assassination. That immediately turned out to be a mistake. Not only was I instantly persona non grata, but I felt that in another minute they would throw me out of there in disgrace. Only thanks to my (justified ) support of Netanyahu during the disengagement from Gaza did I manage to leave unharmed.

Afterwards, in front of the television, I realized that the entire country, including Yacimovich and Lapid, had turned into Beitar, and that the handful of fans on the opposing side, which as usual had entrenched themselves in the visitors' bleachers behind barbed wire, could be evacuated at the end of the game only under police protection, if at all.

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